(Correction: This bread DOES NOT use a biga. That line accidentally made it past the editors before they had their coffee. That line has been removed.)
Ciabatta is an Italian bread which literally translated stands for "slipper". Legend has it that the bread got this name because of the odd shape of the bread. No one actually knows where this bread originated in Italy but every region has their own version. Here in Naples, the ciabatta is usually meant for sandwiches or "panini". One of the things I like about baking this type of loaf is there is no defined shape. What you get is what you get. There is no right or wrong answer so absolutely have fun with this one!
This recipe comes from A Bakers Tour by Nick Malgieri.
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees
Olive oil for the bowl
Cornmeal for the sliding pan
Baking stone or 2 jelly-roll pans that fit side by side in the oven, plus a cooking sheet with no sides or a piece of stiff cardboard to slide the loaves into the oven.
1. Stir together the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk the yeast into the water. Then stir the yeast mixture into the flour.
2. Fit the mixer with the paddle and mix the dough for about 1 minute on lowest speed.
3. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
4. Beat the dough again on medium speed, until smooth and elastic, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Oil a 3-quart bowl and scrape the dough into it. Turn the dough over so that the top is also oiled. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and let the dough rise at room temperature until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
6. About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the dough, place the baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees If you are using pans instead of the stone, invert the two pans side by side on the middle rack of the oven and preheat at the same temperature.
7. To form the loaves, scrape the dough onto a floured work surface, deflating it as little as possible. Gently pat the dough into an 8-inch square. Cut in half to make 2 rectangles.
8. Sprinkle the cookie sheet or cardboard with cornmeal and arrange one of the pieces of dough at the far end, stretching the dough very slightly as you place it on the pan. open the oven and slide the loaf onto the stone or one of the inverted jelly-roll pans, quickly jerking away the cookie sheet or cardboard. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
9. Bake the ciabattas until they are very dark golden and read an internal temperature of about 200 degrees, about 25 minutes.
10. Cool the breads directly on a rack.
Serving: Cut the loaf into thick vertical slices to serve it with a meal. To use the loaves for sandwiches, split them horizontally.
Mise en place
Do not let your water get too hot or it will kill the yeast!
Lewis Note: I like to let the yeast rest in the water to properly hydrate for about 2 or 3 minutes before adding the mixture to the flour. This gives the yeast time to get going before you put them to work!
The dough should be sticky but not too wet
Do not over mix! When the dough comes together stop the mixer!
Lewis Note: OIL THE TOP OF THE PLASTIC WRAP!!!! You WILL hate yourself if you don't when you try to pull it off...you've been warned.
...a little corn dusting...
Lewis Note: Spray your knife with a little oil and the dough will not stick to the knife.
Give us your opinion:
My family loves this bread. I like to eat it plain with cheese on top. My lovely wife likes to toast the bread and put peanut butter on top. I think anything would go great on this lovely bread!
What is your favorite way to eat a sandwich or "panini"?